Chick peas (or garbanzo’s as they are known in other places) are one of the earliest known cultivated legumes. They can be found in the culinary traditions of most parts of the world, including Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Mexico, and have been a feature in my kitchen for a long time. They are really one of nature’s most wonderful convenience foods, having the added bonus of being both highly nutritious and tasty. Chick peas are a great source of protein, zinc, folate and phosphorus, are low in fat and have a low glycaemic index and, as evidenced by the wide variety of cuisines in which they feature, are versatile.
What matters to me is that they are delicious and appeal to my picky kids. I can sling them into salads, tagines, casseroles, soups and – of course – hummus with confidence, knowing that they are both nourishing and acceptable. Up until recently I have mostly used canned chick peas. It is just too easy to have a few tins on the pantry shelf – there they sit, all cooked and ready to go. Of course it is more economical to soak and cook dried chick peas myself, but that generally requires a degree of planning and organisation that is missing in my make-up and lifestyle – we fly by the seat of our pants a bit in this house.
That is, until I made the happy discovery (although not rocket science, so I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before) that chick peas and other dried legumes can be cooked perfectly in the slow cooker. Not only that, but they can then be most successfully frozen – how handy is that! For a little over $2 I can buy a bag of Australian-grown chick peas (we are a significant world producer of these legumes) which yields about the equivalent of 4-5 cans, usually priced around the $1.50 mark.
There is no soaking with this simple method – I just tip them into a colander to rinse them and check for any manky peas, pop them into the slow cooker with a very generous pinch of salt, cover with water to 1 – 2 inches above them and cook on Low for 5-5 1/2 hours. I then use what I need and freeze the rest. If you need to use the frozen peas at short notice, a quick rinse under the tap and a 10 minute wait is all it will take to thaw these gorgeous, golden orbs out, making them ready for use. Using this economical method, you are only ever 10 minutes away from my delicious Moroccan Chick Pea Salad or this heavenly variation on the traditional hummus. My tweak adds almond paste (made by milling fresh almonds to a paste in a processor) to this traditional dish, giving it a little more depth of flavour and an extra creaminess.
Chick Pea & Almond Hummus
- 150 gms cooked chick peas
- 1/4 cup almond paste
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Juice of 1-2 lemons to taste
- 1 Tbsp tahini
- 2-3 Tbsp cold water depending upon consistency required
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- Process all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
- Add more water if a thinner consistency is preferred.
- Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with cumin to serve.
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The sun is shining on our hill – at last – bringing with it all the hope of spring, and a flurry of blossoms in our orchard. The plum is out and the quince is budding, it won’t be too long before the apples and fig follow. Standing in the middle of the orchard the other day, my ears were filled with the blissed out buzzing of a zillion bees – a very happy sound. While we are all doing a bit of a happy dance around here, it is necessary to keep in mind that winter has probably not finished with us just yet, though, and the sight of some absolutely gorgeous parsnips at the market yesterday reminded me that there is still plenty of satisfaction to be had from the winter produce.
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And about bloody time, I hear you mutter as I finally get the Food Connect Box weekly post up! Sorry for my tardiness, folks.
For those of you who were interested in my post about the FOODplus Research Centre there is now a link – in the Comments section at the bottom of the page – to an Mp3 file of the discussion. Now everyone can listen to it!
Well, the weather has certainly given us a run for our money and, as I sit on the hill typing this today, it is cold, grey and rainy. Heavens only knows what sort of an impact this will all have on our summer crops so we had all better just be glad of what we manage to get!
We’ve had some very nice carrots and the oranges are still great, so I am juicing the two together for a fabulous hit of orange goodness. Peaches also make a very nice party drink, but I’ll leave you hanging on that one – and save it until closer to Christmas. The avocados are big and gorgeous – besides using them in salads we often use them on sandwiches or on cracker biscuits (especially Ryvita’s) instead of butter.
With the silly season now gathering momentum you might also be interested in a sure-fire guacomole – always a popular dip and it can be made as spicy as you like. This recipe is a bit flasher than most, but is a great party dip or can double as a first course at a casual lunch. I haven’t used any amounts – it depends on the size of your dish! I use a large shallow ceramic dish for this.
Chop a handful of tomatoes into smallish pieces (I don’t deseed them, but you can if you can be bothered), chop a couple of spring onions finely and mix with the tomatoes. Spread in a layer in the dish. Mash a large avocado with a fork and add one clove of minced garlic, one finely chopped red chilli, a couple of tablespoons of chopped coriander leaf, a good pinch of salt, ground black pepper and the juice of half a lemon. Mix all together and spread in a layer over the tomatoes. Stir up a container of light sour cream until smooth and smooth a layer of that over the avocado mixture, then top with grated tasty cheese. Serve with corn chips. Enjoy!
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Yippee!! Spring is finally starting to show itself in our Food Connect boxes – have a look here.
We will all be turning out brilliant salads this week full of fresh, organic nutrients!
We have asparagus this week and ours was the first thing to vanish from the box. I just lightly steamed it and served it drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice to let the fresh flavour shine through. It is also simply heavenly dipped into melted butter or, if you can be bothered, drizzled with a rich, buttery hollandaise sauce.
Broad beans are at their very best at this time of the year – very young and tender and therefore requiring much less work. These are very popular in Middle Eastern food, where they are known as Fava Beans and generally used in their dried state when out of season. A fresh Fava bean dip is simplicity itself to make, tastes wonderful and is ridiculously healthy. Just lightly steam the beans then, unless the beans are very young, slip the skins off. Toss quickly in a pan with some finely chopped garlic and however much chilli you dare. Place the beans, chilli and garlic into a processor and, with the motor running, pour in a thin stream of extra virgin olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. Season to taste. You can play with this recipe to your heart’s content – adding fresh herbs (parsley or coriander), dried ground cumin and/or lemon juice. Yottam Ottolenghi suggests serving it with hommous in his new book “Plenty”. Knock yourself out!
Does anyone out there have any other great ideas for fresh broad beans – I’d love you to share!